This is The Morning Shift, our one-stop daily roundup of all the auto news that's actually important — all in one place every weekday morning. Or, you could spend all day waiting for other sites to parse it out to you one story at a time. Isn't your time more important?
1st Gear: Ford Up 15%, Because Trucks
Last winter was a never-ending hellscape of ice and snow. It was like a Hieronymus Bosch version of "Frozen." Thus, car sales were mediocre through the first month of the year. This winter hasn't been great, but it wasn't so bad in January that people stayed away from new car lots. It also provided an obvious inflation to January sales numbers.
Ford, who has recently been taking it on the chin as it waited for the new F-150 and Mustang to roll out, finally has good news with a 15% year-over-year performance, giving them their best January since 2004.
A lot of those are trucks, with a 17% increase in January as people go "meh" about the aluminum thing and just buy the F-150 they want. Total truck sales were up 23%, while crossover/SUVs saw a 10% rise and cars... just 6%. Womp Womp.
My favorite figure? Transit Connects were up 72%. Does anyone know why?
2nd Gear: Fiat Chrysler Still Up 14%, Because Jeep And Ram
As well as Ford has done, Fiat Chrysler kept up with them in total sales with a 14% year-over-year increase largely on the back of trucks and SUVs. Specifically, Jeep Cherokee sales are up 44% year-over-year, although I think that's partially due to the amount of Cherokees they had to sell last January and the harsh winter.
Ram, which is now starting to have to compete with a new F-150, booked its 57th month of YoY growth on the back of a lot of new products, including all their Fiat-based vans.
The car portions of the portfolio didn't do quite as well, with Chrysler up 11% thanks to the new 200, but Dodge and Fiat both up a measly 1%.
3rd Gear: GM Up 18%, Because Trucks and Crossovers
Seeing a pattern here? GM saw an overall 18% rise in sales, with pickups up 42% and SUV/CUVs increasing almost entirely across the board.
What does that mean for car sales? They're not so hot.
Buick had the worst month of all GM and they're also the brand with the most cars. In fact, the only vehicles that didn't see double digit year-over-year declines for them were the Encore (up 46.4%) and the Enclave (down 0.3%). Chevy saw the Suburban jump 142% while the Impala dropped 22%.
While the Cadillac XTS did see a modest improvement of 14.2%, the Escalde was up 136% and 188.7% for the regular model and ESV, respectively.
Trucks sell. Sedans... not so much.
4th Gear: Mitsubishi Is Doing Better In North America Than Japan or Europe
Mitsubishi, the company that we constantly have to remind ourselves isn't going out of business, isn't going out of business. Even better, their North American business is doing better than the rest of their operations globally.
Facing brisk North America demand for the its Outlander Sport compact crossover and Mirage subcompact hatchback, Mitsubishi raised its regional sales forecast by 1,000 units to 117,00 for the current fiscal year ending March 31, 2015. That represents a 21 percent increase over 97,000 units sold the previous year.
Mitsubishi forecasts its money-losing North American operations are on pace to notch a 3 billion yen ($25.0 million) operating profit in the current fiscal year ending March 31, 2015.
Still, the company as a whole is suffering because, unlike their fellow Japanese automakers, their North American arm isn't particularly robust. Fitting into our theme, Mitsubishi basically sells two types of vehicles in the U.S.: Crossovers and hatchback Mirages.
5th Gear: So Much For That Exciting New Market
Russia's economy has flailed under falling oil prices and growing sanctions, which means the dream that some automakers have had of adding to their bottom lines in the massive company are suffering as well.
How bad as it? Here's what Renault-Nissan's Carlos Ghosn told Bloomberg:
This “is one-third of the Russian market disappearing in a couple of years,” Ghosn said in an interview with Bloomberg Television yesterday in the Paris suburb Saint-Denis. “It’s already pretty bad. With the forecast we have in 2015, we should be at the end of the tunnel, but we never know.” Sales of new passenger cars and light commercial vehicles fell 10 percent in 2014 to about 2.5 million units, according to the Moscow-based Association of European Businesses, or AEB. Combined sales by Renault SA, Nissan Motor Co. and AvtoVAZ dropped 7 percent last year to 764,245 vehicles. The partners’ market share widened to 30.7 percent from 29.6 percent in 2013. AEB sees Russia’s auto market plummeting by a further 24 percent in 2015.
Nissan, it should be noted, wanted to get a huge portion of the market via a partnership with AvtoVAZ. It may eventually come to pass but it's not going to be easy.
Reverse: Sexy Sexagenarians
On February 3, 2006, "The World's Fastest Indian," a movie based on the true story of motorcycle racer and land-speed record holder Burt Munro, opens in U.S. theaters. The film starred Anthony Hopkins as Munro, the sexagenarian who in the 1960s set several land-speed records on his modified 1920 Indian Scout motorcycle at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah.
Neutral: Will American Sedans Rebound?
Or Is This It?
Photo Credit: AP Images